Ten years after the Oak Creek shooting, Sikh community members and experts are calling for improved policy and resources

Ten years after the Oak Creek shooting, Sikh community members and experts are calling for improved policy and resources

Wisconsin native Pardeep Kaleka was driving to the Wisconsin Sikh Temple when he found out active shooter in the gurdwara — the same place where his parents and many others were preparing a community meal.

His mother survived the attack on August 5, 2012, but his father, Satwant Kaleka, was not. He was one of them seven innocent worshippers was killed by a shooter with links to white nationalist neo-Nazi groups.

“Heard this tragedy, not only in the United States, but around the world,” Kaleka said Friday as he remembered the event. “He went with every single Sikh.”

The shooting was the deadliest targeted attack on Sikh Americans in US history. So while hate crimes were not a new concept to Sikh Americans, the Oak Creek attack sent shock waves through the community, said Sim J. Attariwala, senior policy and advocacy manager of the Sikh Alliance.

“It was a sad day,” Attariwala told CBS News. “I think every Sikh I know, myself included, remembers exactly where they were when they heard the story about the Oak Creek shooting.”

In the 10 years since the attack, the threat of white nationalism and crimes against Sikhs and other American minority groups has grown, he said.

“Oak Creek can be seen as a warning of the increasingly violent and assertive role that white supremacy is set to play in American society over the next decade,” Attariwala said. “Our community, the AAPI community, the Latino community, the Black community, the Jewish community, the Muslim community — I think they’re all feeling heightened.”

Authorities such as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have identified white supremacy groups as one of the most dangerous threats in the US, said Michael Lieberman of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“Federal agencies are repeatedly identifying what they believe to be the number one domestic threat today: violent racial or ethnic extremists who advocate white supremacy,” Lieberman told CBS News. And two: violent anti-government or anti-authority extremists.”

One way to reduce these threats going forward is to improve the way hate crime data is tracked in this country, he said. Local law enforcement agencies only report hate crimes to the FBI voluntarily — they are not required to. This means that many hate crimes that occur in the US are likely going unreported.

“If that data and the reporting of the data were serious, this would help to be able to allocate resources,” Lieberman said. “If you know that three anti-Muslim hate crimes have been committed in a particular neighborhood, you can increase police patrols and reassure the community by sending civic leaders out and talking to them.”

In addition to improving hate crime tracking, some activists are pushing for more federal funding for security provisions in places of worship. Sahej Preet Singh said the Sikh Coalition and the govt present it provides a grant for these institutions to get money, it’s actually a competitive process to get it.

“This grant covers things like bulletproof glass, improving security alarms, and installing new cameras and all that. So, this money helps a lot,” Singh told CBS News. “But at the moment, the budget is limited, so the competition gets really, really tough.”

If the government is able to increase the budget allocated for this grant, more non-profit organizations and places of worship would be able to receive funding, he said.

Tragedies and hate crimes like the one in Oak Creek can be difficult for the communities targeted, but Sikh Americans have used their heartbreak to inspire change, Kaleka told CBS News.

“What happened that day did not stop us from realizing that we have a role in America. It made us more determined,” he said. “In times of grief and suffering, sometimes it brings out the worst in us. But for us, I think it brought out the best in us.”

Lieberman said the world can look to the response of Sikh Americans to the attack as an example of how to take action in the face of tragedy. So far, they have started the FBI to start tracking the number of hate crimes that specifically affect Sikhs, they started the National Day of Seva, otherwise known as selfless service, on they encourage people to engage in a form of community service and have helped many. of gurdwaras to apply for the federal security grant.

“The resilience shown by the community is through action and the way they have honored the memory of those who were murdered,” he said. “The fact that so many members of this community recognize that there is a way forward to try to make things better, not just for the Sikh-American community, but for everyone, that’s a best practice for communities Seriously.

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